Genentech has inked a deal with US biotechnology firm Inotek that could bring the latter in excess of $405million and add another string to the bow of Genentech’s oncology powerhouse.

The two companies hope to develop compounds that will inhibit an enzyme called poly ADP-ribose polymerase, or PARP, which plays an important role in DNA repair and has potential applications in cancer, principally by blocking one of the key defense mechanisms of tumour cells against standard chemotherapy, resulting in increased tumour susceptibility.

As well as $20 million in upfront fees, Inotek looks set to receive up to $405 million dependent on certain milestones being met, as well as royalties on any sales made. The lead compound is code-named INO-1001, which will be entirely funded by Genentech, along with any follow-up PARP inhibitors that go into development; INO-1001 is currently in Phase Ib development for treating malignant melanoma in combination with the conventional chemotherapy temozolamide. And Genentech is clearly so enamored with the programme it has also committed to using Inotek’s small molecule chemistry capabilities in a multi-year research deal.

PARP inhibitors may also have likely applications in another immensely profitable field – cardiovascular – and Genentech has bagged itself an option to develop and market compounds in this arena to prevent cell death and complications from acute cardiovascular conditions, particularly those encompassing inflammation and ischaemia/reperfusion.

This comes with another potential pot for Inotek of $200 million if all milestones are met. Inotek, which has retained US co-promotion rights in cardiovascular with Genentech alongside exclusive rights for all other therapy areas, has recently completed a Phase II trial to reduce cardiac injury associated with angioplasty following a heart attack and is enrolling patients in another Phase II trial to cut complications linked to high-risk cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. A number of oral and intravenous next generation PARP inhibitors are being developed for various indications, including cancer.

Genentech and partner Roche are the world's number one cancer specialists, with sales of its oncology offerings helping drive significant growth.